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Homeschool Math Resources: The Good...And the Bad

Math. If you've been around the blog for a while you'll know that it's the subject that's always been my nemesis. I struggled with it in high school. (As a straight A student, it was the only B I had.) And when I've had to choose math curriculum for homeschool, I've struggled. Over the years we've tried a myriad of math curriculum. I definitely won't say we have it figured out, even now. But we have been able to identify curriculum that has worked for us and curriculum that hasn't.

Homeschool math resources

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What hasn't worked...

Let me begin with a few examples of what hasn't worked. As a disclaimer, I'm not saying that these are bad curriculum choices. In fact, I've had friends use them with great results. And even among my own kids, I've had varying results. I think the thing with math is this. All of us think differently when it comes to solving math problems. I'm sure it has to do with all of the left brain/right brain stuff. So, different curriculum will be more or less successful depending on how you think about and solve math. Makes sense, hmm? So I'm not downing any of this curriculum. If you use it and it works, great! If you've been thinking about using it, maybe our experiences will help you know if it's a good fit. Without further ado:


Math-U-See

Math u see

I posted not long ago about my $200 mistake when it came to switching curriculum impulsively. Math-U-See was that mistake. We had been using ABeka curriculum for all subjects, and I was quickly discovering things I didn't like about the curriculum in almost every subject- including math. With Abeka math, the kids would memorize a process and be able to get mostly right answer, but when I talked to them about it, I could tell they had no idea why they were doing that process and why it should work. I knew I wanted a change, but I hadn't really done any research at all.

Then we attended a homeschool convention with friends who happened to be purchasing Math-U-See from a vendor booth. The rest is history. I walked away with over $200 in curriculum and accessories. I was thrilled. Math-U-See works on a mastery principle where the student fully learns one topic before moving on. I love the concept, and I definitely agree with it. Math-U-See also offers concrete, hands-on ways to demonstrate the concept the child is learning- another thing I thought was so important and felt like we were missing with ABEKA.

I brought my purchases home, explained the change, and dove in. We used Math-U-See for that school year, but I quickly began to see the problems for us.

Charles hated the video instruction. On a side note, I've yet to find any video instruction he really does like, so I probably should have just told him to get over it. But, it was early in our homeschooling, and I still wanted every child to love every subject.

Things moved too slowly. On the recommendation of the representative at the booth at the convention, I had decided to begin anew with the first book-Alpha- because neither Charles nor Kathryne- knew addition facts quickly and fluently. They were older, however. Kathryne was about 10 and Charles 9 when I made the move. My by-the-book self was determined that they move through the lessons "on schedule"- something I now understand isn't even what's recommended by Math-U-See. So we'd watch the video for the lesson and then spend the week doing the pages in the book. They were bored stiff.

The other problem came also because I was moving so slowly. Kathryne began to encounter math related problems in science. Because I had them stuck back in the first Math-U-See book, she hadn't yet covered things like decimals and fractions. And she was at a loss when they came up in science.

I finally threw in the towel after that homeschool year, and we moved on. Interestingly, I recently reviewed Math-U-See's Precalculus for Kathryne, and it works very well. She would have thrived with the curriculum, I think, if we had stuck with it and I had learned how to pace things well.

Life of Fred

Life of Fred

Ah, Life of Fred. This was a curriculum I had researched long and hard (having learned a thing or two from before). I use many of Charlotte Mason's principles and methods in our homeschool, and this was a math curriculum that I had heard recommended by many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. So, again, this time with research under my belt, I spent a huge chunk of money at the homeschool convention. I bought a whole set of the younger books- A through H- as well as the Prealgebra and Algebra books for the older kids. (I know now that you can sometimes find a complete set like this one for less.)

At first, we loved it. Life of Fred is math that is story based. Everything revolves around Fred, a five-year-old professor at a college. He has a a doll named Kingie who comes to life and talks to him. Instead of regular lessons, there are stories that illustrate some math concept- or more than one. Then there are questions for the student. These questions use, not only the concept in the story, but often previous concepts. There are only a few questions for each story- not lists of problems like some math workbooks. The idea behind Life of Fred is to make math practical and to make kids think. It's a great concept.

The first signs of trouble came when Kathryne and Charles encountered in the Prealgebra and Algebra books some questions that they just couldn't figure out. They reread lessons and looked at the answer key. But to no avail. Unfortunately I couldn't figure them out either. (Remember that math is my nemesis?) There are no lengthy explanations with multiple example problems worked out like in some math texts, so I couldn't look at those for help. I even emailed the author, but I didn't get a reply. The problems continued until all of us were- at times- reduced to tears. Although the younger girls hadn't encountered the same type of problems yet, I was reluctant to let them continue, feeling as if that wouldn't prepare them for any other curriculum for the upper level maths.

What has worked...


CTC Math 

CTC math

I reviewed CTC Math for the Crew a few years ago. I used it primarily with the younger girls at the time, and they both quickly loved it. Currently they and Kathryne are all using it for math. Charles- my video lesson hater- isn't using it this year, although I'm going to push the issue and make him use it next year because what he's doing isn't working. But that's another story.

CTC is great because it's simple and it has great explanations. It is mastery based and is not cyclical. There is some occasional review, but concepts aren't repeated over and over as in a cyclical program. There is a video lesson (taught by Pat, an Australian, with an awesome Australian accent!). Then there are questions. Depending upon the percentage of questions that are correct, the student will achieve a certain level. Only when they "pass" by a percentage you can determine should they move on to the next lesson.

After the video, the questions are asked and answered online or you can print a worksheet. Pretty complete answers are given to help you understand why you were right or wrong. I can access their records at any time to see what lessons have been completed and what their scores have been, so the program takes care of all of the record keeping for me.

My only complaint about CTC is the lack of review. I occasionally give review worksheets I've pulled out of various places online. Overall, though, it's the curriculum that has seemed to work the best as well as most consistently. And I really feel like the girls are grasping and understanding.

Another plus for CTC in my opinion is that it's pretty cost effective. It's all online and can be accessed by any computer and most devices at any time. There is one yearly cost that includes access for up to ten children for the whole year- 12 months.


This list has only skimmed the surface of what we've tried over the years. We've also used Abeka, Saxon, and Alpha Omega Life Pacs for math with varying degrees of success. In addition, I've come across a variety of free online resources that I've used to supplement or to try to understand a problem that we've come across that we can't figure out.

  • Kahn Academy- has some great videos that are very explanatory. You can use the program as a complete curriculum, but it doesn't really give a "grade" or other record keeping. Kahn also has videos for a variety of other subjects.
  • Math Is Fun- has some great games, explanations, and worksheets for a variety of topics. It's mostly geared toward upper elementary and middle school, but you can hunt around for resources for any math topic.
  • Free Math Help- has lessons on high school level math, games, and worksheets. There is also a forum to ask questions. 
  • Web Math from Discovery Education - is a free math problem solver. There are resources for K- high school. You can search a topic and see typical problems worked out or you can enter your own problem and get a very complete answer worked out step by step.
  • Homeschool Math- has some great worksheets and a worksheet generator. There are also some games and other resources.
As another math supplement, we've loved Spectrum workbooks. I think they could be a complete curriculum for early elementary, but they make a great supplement all the way through middle school. Charles did particularly well with Spectrum because he loves a workbook approach. There are explanations with each lessons and then problems, and there is some built in review.

Spectrum math

Math will never be my favorite subject. I do think we've reached a point where most of the kids have a math program that works. Do you have any favorite math curricula or other resources? I'd love to know!


You can find out what other curricula we love in other subjects from these posts.


Homeschool history

Homeschool language arts

Homeschool science

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